Hugh L. Dryden

Hugh L. Dryden (1898-1965)

Hugh L. Dryden (1898-1965) was a career civil servant and an aerodynamicist by discipline who had begun life as a child prodigy. He graduated at age 14 from high school and went on to earn an A.B. in three years from Johns Hopkins (1916). Three years later (1919) he earned his Ph.D. in physics and mathematics from the same institution even though he had been employed full-time in the National Bureau of Standards since June 1918. His career at the Bureau of Standards, which lasted until 1947, was devoted to studying airflow, turbulence, and particularly the problems of the boundary layer--the thin layer of air next to an airfoil that causes drag. In 1920 he became chief of the aerodynamics section in the Bureau. His work, in the 1920s, on measuring turbulence in wind tunnels facilitated research in the NACA that produced the laminar flow wings used in the P-51 Mustang and other World War II aircraft. From the mid-1920s to 1947, his publications became essential reading for aerodynamicists around the world. During World War II, his work on a glide bomb named the Bat won him a Presidential Certificate of Merit. He capped his career at the Bureau by becoming assistant director and then associate director during his final two years there. He then served as director of the NACA from 1947-1958, and later became deputy administrator of NASA under T. Keith Glennan and James E. Webb. See Richard K. Smith, The Hugh L. Dryden Papers, 1898-1965 (Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Library, 1974) and Hugh L. Dryden's Career in Aviation and Space (Washington: NASA Monographs in Aerospace History #5, 1996).


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Updated February 2, 2005